Category Archives: Craig, Elizabeth Spann

Elizabeth Spann Craig. A Body in the Backyard. United States: Elizabeth Spann Craig, 2013.

abodyinthebackyardOctogenarian Myrtle Clover has finally gotten her yardman, Dusty, and his wife Puddin over to work on her house in the fictional town of Bradley, North Carolina. Puddin might not make a great housemaid but Dusty does a good job on the yard, whenever they make it over to Myrtle’s. So, Myrtle’s excitement is dampened just a bit when Dusty discovers a body in her backyard. Of course this provides Myrtle with the perfect excuse to get some information on the case. But, it also gives Dusty and Puddin an excuse to stop their work. And Myrtle can’t help but be disappointed in herself for having no idea that a murder occurred in her own backyard.

Myrtle’s neighbor and closest friend Miles soon identifies the victim as his cousin Charles. Cousin Charles isn’t the kind of cousin you claim, he’s the black sheep that you hope never gets mentioned. Myrtle and Miles suspect that Charles had come back to Bradley to beg Miles for money. But Myrtle and Miles soon discover that there are a few people who would have had a motive to kill Cousin Charles, including a cuckolded husband, a scorned woman, and a protective father. When the protective father, Lee Woosley, turns up murdered in Myrtle’s backyard as well, Myrtle’s son, Red, starts to be concern for her safety at the house. In order to scuttle Red’s plan to send her to Greener Pastures Retirement Home, Myrtle knows she must solve this mystery fast. In their search for the murderer, Myrtle and Miles discover that Miles wasn’t the only one hiding his connection to Cousin Charles–there may be even more suspects to consider.

A Body in the Backyard is the fourth title in the Myrtle Clover Mysteries. Myrtle Clover has an uncanny talent for finding bodies in her small town, so it’s a good thing she also has the ability to solve these crimes.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library Catalog.

 

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Craig, Elizabeth Spann, Mountains, Mystery, Novels in Series, Novels Set in Fictional Places

Elizabeth Spann Craig. Death at a Drop-In. United States: CreateSpace, 2013.

In the fictional town of Bradley, North Carolina, Myrtle Clover isn’t looking forward to attending “society matron,” Cosette Whitlow’s drop-in. Myrtle has only agreed to attend because her best friend, Miles, has asked her to come and deter the widows from descending upon him. As a lady in her 80s, Myrtle might not look too threatening, but at six feet tall and toting a cane, she can intimidate when she wants.

Cosette is always mentioning to Myrtle’s son Red how much her own mother enjoys living in Greener Pastures Retirement Home. If not talking about that, she’s bragging on how advanced her grandson is or trying to take over someone’s charity position. She kindly lends a hand throughout all of town, but there is nothing kindly about the way she deals with people. Myrtle and Miles hope to show their faces and head out soon afterwards. But, when the two walk in on a small spectacle in the kitchen involving Cosette, Felix, and an enraged Sybil, Myrtle’s interest is peaked. Is there an affair going on between Felix and Cosette?

However, things soon settle back down into boring sophistication and Miles and Myrtle are ready to make their exit. When the two can’t find Cosette to thank her, Cosette’s husband Lucas enlists them to help search her out. Myrtle discovers Cosette in the yard; she’s been hit over the head with a croquet mallet and Red, the chief of police, is called in. There are many suspects in this case and Myrtle is determined to investigate and write up the story for the town newspaper. There’s a new cub reporter in town though who might stand in her way. But, when a second murder occurs, Myrtle starts putting information together, and it looks like she’ll either end up with the scoop or in a grave of her own. How will Myrtle Clover work her way out of this one?

Death at a Drop-In is the fifth book in the Myrtle Clover Mystery series. Myrtle Clover remains just as sprightly as ever and is written proof that the young aren’t the only ones who can be the center of an exciting story.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Elizabeth Craig. Quilt Trip. New York: Penguin Group, 2013.

Quilt TripAs usual, Beatrice Coleman has a bad feeling about Meadow Downey’s latest scheme. Meadow has caught wind of the old and rich Muriel Starnes’s get-together to determine an executor for her quilting foundation. The fact that Muriel didn’t invite Meadow to her party is of very little importance to Meadow, who is busy cooking up plans for the foundation. She’s convinced that Muriel should choose the Village Quilters. Beatrice, a recently retired art curator with a keen sense of etiquette, has waning patience for Meadow’s cockamamie ideas. Somehow though, Beatrice finds herself riding shotgun to Meadow, who speeds away from Dappled Hills and up a treacherous mountain in pursuit of quilting glory. Unfortunately for Meadow and Beatrice, the weather is looking awful gloomy…

Even as they approach the mountain-top Victorian “Southern Gothic” mansion, sleet is falling and the sky is gray. Beatrice and Meadow are greeted with a chilly reception, though at the very least sweet Posy Beck and batty Miss Sissy, fellow Village Quilters members, have also crashed the party (at Meadow’s request). Muriel allows the party-crashers to stay, but not without a few subtle jibes at their expense. The atmosphere of party is noticeably lackluster. The house is cold and unwelcoming, and the real guests are gathered in the library in silence. Just as Muriel alludes to another reason for asking her guests here today, separate from the foundation, the power goes out.

Apparently, the build-up of ice on the power lines caused the outage. However, the outage is the least of everyone’s worries: the sleet also severed a large limb from a giant tree, blocking the driveway and Beatrice’s hope of a quick exit. Stranded, without power, a phone line, or even cell phone reception, it looks as if the party is turning into a sleepover. Once the outage has been identified and the hubbub dies down somewhat, Muriel reveals her big secret.

She’s been diagnosed with cancer and has only a few weeks left. She used the foundation as an excuse to gather friends and family to apologize for any past transgressions. Alexandra, her estranged daughter, Holly, a librarian and fellow quilter, Dot, another fellow quilter, and Winnie, her former friend are the formally gathered guests, along with Muriel’s lawyer, Colton. Beatrice and the rest of the Village Quilters soon learn that Muriel’s unkindness has created rifts in almost all of her relationships. Muriel’s company is shocked when she delivers a blanket apology to the entire room. Beatrice observes that Muriel’s apology seems legitimate in its sincerity, yet rehearsed, regrettably. Nobody in the room appears to lap it up with much enthusiasm. Perhaps Muriel has stepped on the toes of her friends and family one too many times. Following the surprise announcement, each guest makes a case for her guild and the foundation, and then Muriel bids them good night.

Muriel’s apology was well-timed, because she doesn’t live to see the next morning. Despite her old age and admission of cancer, Beatrice is sure that foul play is afoot. From the look of Muriel’s body, Beatrice recognizes what she is sure are signs of suffocation. At Meadow’s insistence, she plays detective, questioning each one of the guests. But how just how safe is Beatrice in the role of detective, blatantly trying to sniff out the killer? Just how safe are any of the guests, trapped in an isolated mansion with a killer lurking in plain sight?

Quilt Trip is the third novel in Elizabeth Craig’s A Southern Quilting Mystery series. Craig’s latest novel is slightly different in structure. Quilt Trip is set in a much more condensed time frame of a few days and almost entirely in a single setting, which heightens the urgency and mystery, but the novel has the same charm as Quilt or Innocence and Knot What It Seems thanks to well-crafted, quirky characters. There isn’t considerable development in the slowly unfolding relationship between Beatrice and Wyatt, the amiable Dappled Hills minister, though Craig does include a little bit of interaction between the two. If you’d like to start at the beginning of the series, take a look at past posts here and here.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Elizabeth Craig. Knot What It Seams. New York: Signet Books, 2013.

Knot What It SeamsNo matter how hard she tries, it seems like Beatrice Coleman is never able to relax. Try as she might, just as she gets comfortable, something always seems to get in Beatrice’s way – a phone call, her eccentric neighbor, Meadow Downey, dropping in unexpectedly, or, even worse, a murder. Beatrice thought a cottage in Dappled Hills, North Carolina would be a nice, sleepy little place to spend her retirement. Turns out, she was wrong.

Meadow, the leader of the local Village Quilters guild, is bemoaning the recent decline in membership. She is fanatical about nipping the trend of dwindling attendance in the bud. She informs Beatrice that she has invited Jo Paxton, formerly of another area guild, the Cut-Ups, to join the Village Quilters. Beatrice is wary of the prospect of welcoming Jo to the group, especially after she observes two heated interactions between Jo and members of the Cut-Ups at the Patchwork Cottage, the go-to shop for quilting materials in Dappled Hills. The Cut-Ups kicked Jo out of the guild because she is a narrow-minded bully who only appreciates traditional quilting. Her confidence in her opinion is only reinforced by the fact that she judges for several quilting shows. But Meadow is dead set on extending the invitation, despite Jo’s tendencies to cause trouble. From her very first Village Quilter’s meeting, know-it-all Jo critiques each of the quilters’ work, one-by-one.

In the midst of inviting Jo to the Village Quilters, both quilting guilds are taken aback by the news that Mayor Booth Grayson intends to tax the quilting groups. Since the guilds are generating revenue, Grayson has decided to tax them for the benefit of the town. All the quilters dispute the decision since the bulk of the money they raise is donated to charity. During the town hall meeting, Jo picks a fight with Mayor Grayson, threatening to air his dirty laundry if he doesn’t drop his plan to tax the quilters. Jo is also the town mail carrier, and a very bad one at that. She constantly delivers mail to the wrong addresses and is known to snoop through other people’s post. Police Chief Ramsay Downey manages to diffuse the tension by suggesting that Mayor Grayson will attend the upcoming quilting show before he reaches a final conclusion on taxing the quilters.

The night of the quilting show, Jo doesn’t show up. The quilters learn that in the rainy weather, Jo drove her car off the side of a mountain in a car accident. Beatrice suspects fowl play and she urges Ramsay to investigate further. Many of the town people are struggling to display grief in response to Jo’s startling death. After a bit of nudging, Ramsay discovers that Beatrice’s instincts were correct. Jo’s unfortunate car accident was no accident–someone cut her brakes. With a murderer on the loose, the town of Dappled Hills is left reeling. Contrary to her mission to relax, Beatrice winds up collecting clues and investigating Jo’s murder, but this isn’t an easy case. So many people wanted Jo dead for very different reasons, from her husband Glen Paxton, a mechanic, to Karen Taylor and Opal Woosley, slighted Cut-Ups members, to Mayor Grayson. Beatrice better take care that she doesn’t get too hot on the trail of the killer, lest she become the next victim.

Novelist Elizabeth Craig returns with her offbeat band of characters in this second installment of the A Southern Quilting Mystery. Craig, a cozy mystery novelist, writes an absorbing mystery for readers who like the gruesome elements of a story toned down. “Cozy mysteries” feature an amateur sleuth who lives in a tight-knit small town. The focus is shifted away from the unpleasant details of the murders themselves and onto the detective work, the sleuth’s personal life, and the recurrent characters, or rather townspeople. Read more about cozy mysteries here and here. Knot What It Seams is an exemplary model of the sub-genre. As the name “cozy” implies, there’s much more humor and light-heartedness in Craig’s work than the average mystery. She even includes quilting tips and recipes at the end of the book.

If you’re interested in starting with the first novel in the series, Quilt or Innocence, take a look at our blog post on it here. Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Elizabeth Craig. Quilt or Innocence. New York: Signet, 2012.

Quilt or InnocenceAll Beatrice Coleman wants is a nice, quiet retirement. Now that she’s moved to small town Dappled Hills, North Carolina she is closer to her daughter, Piper, and has plenty of free time to catch up on her reading. Beatrice has visions of spending her days lying in a backyard hammock sipping leisurely on a mint julep. Almost immediately, Beatrice’s fantasy is interrupted by her intrusive next-door neighbor, Meadow Downey, who barges in and forces Beatrice to attend one of her Village Quilters guild meetings. Although Meadow pulls her into the group, Beatrice is reluctant to get involved. She didn’t come to Dappled Hills for the company. Prior to her retirement, Beatrice worked as a folk art curator in Atlanta. Coincidentally enough, she is familiar with all of the technical details of quilts and has even appraised some in the past. But Beatrice has never attempted to make a quilt herself – nor did she have any inclination to. Quite frankly, she resents been torn away from her sweet corgi, Noo-noo, and her current read, Whispers in Summer.

Before she can say “backstitch,” Beatrice is embroiled in the local quilting scene, and all of the drama that comes with it. She learns quickly that the beloved Patchwork Cottage, which supplies all the town quilters with material, is set to close. Most of the guild members support Posy, the shop owner, and a couple members implore her to stand her ground against Judith, her landlord. Judith is forcing Posy out by raising the rent. Surprisingly, Judith is also a quilter and active with the guild. Despite the shared hobby and associations, Judith is interested in launching a high-end women’s boutique in the space, which she believes will be a more lucrative venture. Judith is not exactly popular in the guild. Fellow members tell Beatrice how Judith often stoops to blackmail and delights in meanness. The night of a quilting bee, for instance, Beatrice catches Judith in the act of ripping off another member.

More than a few people wouldn’t mind Judith gone, obviously. When she turns up dead the morning after the quilting bee, fingers point in every direction. Many possible motives arise and novelist Elizabeth Craig believably shifts among all of the reasonable alternatives. Just as Beatrice fell into the Village Quilters guild by accident, so too does she become embroiled in the mystery of Judith’s murder. Beatrice asks lots of questions and uncovers a number of intriguing, if not incriminating, tidbits about the guild members. Although Beatrice doesn’t claim to carry on an investigation, her sleuthing clearly rattles the murderer, who leaves threatening notes on her doorstep stuffed inside of empty Nehi bottles.  Even with the prospect of continued and escalated threats, Beatrice does not cease asking questions nor remove herself from the case. She’s in too far now to stop – with the murder and the quilting. As Beatrice probes further, she realizes that maybe she didn’t want the sleepy retirement she hoped for all along.

Much like one of the quilts Beatrice admires in the novel, “It looks like a quilt to curl up in on a cold night. With a mug of hot chocolate,” Quilt or Innocence, is a comfortable, engaging read. Although Meadow is the designated eccentric oddball of the bunch, Craig delivers many distinctive characters. At the end of the book, Craig rewards readers with quilting tips and four tempting recipes. This is the first book in Craig’s A Southern Quilting Mystery series. For readers who want more: the second book in the series has been released and the third will come out in December of this year.

We previously covered one of Craig’s books in her Myrtle Clover Mystery series, A Dyeing Shame.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Elizabeth Spann Craig. Pretty Is As Pretty Dies. Woodbury, MN: Midnight Ink, 2009.

The fictional town of Bradley, North Carolina is in a tizzy.  Parke Stockard, the hated real estate agent and developer who is as beautiful as she is mean, has just been murdered at the altar of the Methodist Church.  Although the townspeople are jarred by the murder, they are not sad to see Parke go.  Myrtle Clover, the octogenarian mother of the police chief, has decided to use this unfortunate event to her benefit as a way to prove to her son, Red, that any discussion of her moving into the Greener Pastures Retirement Home is unnecessary.  Myrtle is a spry retired English teacher who begins to investigate the case and discovers that many of the townspeople and her fellow United Methodist Women members could be suspects.  As Myrtle identifies more clues, another death takes place.  However, this time the victim is someone who is well-liked but probably knew too much.  Myrtle must find the answer to the mystery before another death – including her own – takes place.

Pretty Is As Pretty Dies is Craig’s second “Myrtle Clover Mystery” novel.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Elizabeth Spann Craig. A Dyeing Shame: Death at the Beauty Box. Pineland, FL: Palmland Publishing, 2006.

The fictional town of Bradley, North Carolina, is an old Southern town in which the weekly hair appointment is an eagerly anticipated outing for women such as Myrtle Clover, the octogenarian protagonist in Spann’s first novel. Unfortunately, Myrtle’s routine now has a snag: Tami, her hairdresser, has just been murdered. A few months earlier, everyone would have been sad about her death, but Tami’s recent lapse into alcoholism made her bitter and unpleasant. Myrtle, the literature-quoting former English teacher, sees this unfortunate death as an opportunity to break her boredom and to prove to her son, the Bradley police chief, that her mind is still sharp. When Myrtle finds her best friend and neighbor, Edna, bludgeoned to death in her garden, the mystery hits too close to home. Myrtle puts the clues together using her favorite soap opera, Tomorrow’s Promise, as a guide. Finally she realizes the motive for her friends’ deaths and helps her son solve the case.

A Dyeing Shame is Elizabeth Spann Craig’s first book in her Myrtle Clover mystery series.

Check this title’s availability and the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2000-2009, 2006, Craig, Elizabeth Spann, Mystery, Novels in Series, Novels Set in Fictional Places